Sheltered above the red cliffs of Kingfisher Bay in Mozambique’s coastal town of Vilanculos, Santorini rises like an ember above the caerulean waters of the Bazaruto archipelago.
The time for a family trip has never been more de rigueur and together with my husband and our 12-year-old daughter, we depart for Mozambique on a Thursday morning. We are equally excited to learn that our Airlink flight from Johannesburg to Vilanculos is on the Avro RJ85 and after 1 hour and 20 minutes, the captain announces that he will be flying in over the sea. As we start our descent, each window seat passenger gasps with delight at the unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean.
At Vilanculos airport, an immigration official stamps our passports and after collecting our luggage, we are met by Tatenda Mutembo, who drives us to our destination in the Santorini branded 4×4 safari converted vehicle. At the lodge, we are met at the main Villa by management team Heidi Rabbetts, Wynand van der Watt, Lucy Bowes, Norman Walker and the wanted relief of cool refresher towels and a welcome drink.
We are taken to our accommodation for the next three nights, The Chapel, a stand-alone villa on the northern fringes of Santorini’s main villa. Our host, Calistro Boane, shows us around our impressive dwelling; a two-bedroom villa with a lounge area, dining section, kitchen, patio and rim-flow pool.
A table for three is set up outside on the patio and with uninterrupted sea views, you might forget to eat. Our chef, Joao Mufume is whipping up something extraordinary for lunch – cucumber and plain yoghurt soup, fish cakes with roasted vegetables and tartar sauce and Amarula panna cotta with berry compote for dessert. My recliner is beckoning and I opt to have my dessert served poolside whilst drinking in the vistas of the ocean.
Time for a quick dip in the pool at sunset while Joao lovingly prepares our meal – we are treated to aperitifs of pizza and crumbed fish. Dinner is a tasty selection of mixed melon, peppered ham and blue cheese salad with balsamic reduction for starters, Mozambican BBQ of fish, prawns, calamari and peri peri chicken, sides of potato salad, Greek salad and vegetable couscous with home-made condiments of butter sauce and tomato sauce. For dessert, cashew nut and almond berry parfait with berry compote is the perfect conclusion to a delicious meal.
Our daughter indulges in a bit of television watching before heading to bed in her own separate suite. Very impressed that she doesn’t have to share with anyone, she has a shower before climbing into her oversized bed with the dropped mosquito net. Our suite with its King-sized bed looks incredibly inviting, but not before washing the day away with the fragrant Charlotte Rhys products. It’s a difficult choice between the freestanding bath or the his-and-her shower …
Today is the perfect day for our boat charter excursion. After a hearty breakfast, we are transported at low-tide in a rubber-duck by skipper Paulino Zibane to the moored Supercat 38 Sport Aphrodite, where skipper Lorenzo Tamas is waiting to show us the intricacies of the ocean.
Before snorkeling at Magaruque, an island located 35 miles south of Benguerra island, we stop at Pansy island to wait for the tide to come in at Magaruque, but not before we encounter some dolphins hunting for fish en route to our next destination. With a permanent deep-water channel in front of the island, Magaruque is the perfect place for snorkeling. Our daughter takes like a fish to water and revels in the underwater wonderworld. The corals look magnificent and she even spots angelfish, parrot fish, a crayfish and pufferfish.
We are anchored approximate to the beach for the enjoyment of an alfresco picnic. It is make-your-own-Portuguese-roll day with salads and delicious fruit skewers. Ghost crabs are scurrying up and down the deserted beach just to disappear into their tiny holes when they see any threat approaching.
Our afternoon is spent relaxing in our Villa before dinner in the dining area is served while the air-conditioner brings relief from the heat of the day. Chef Joao has done his magic again – I love the prawn cocktail with avocado starter while my husband thoroughly enjoys the caldo verde soup with crispy ham. All three of us opt for the roasted sirloin steak, herb soft polenta, mixed vegetables and rosemary jus. Plus there is chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream for dessert!
After a restful night and another delicious breakfast, we embark on beach volleyball, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Our daughter is giddy with excitement as she realizes today’s lunch is pizza and if she had her way, she would eat pizza for breakfast, lunch and supper. The pizza oven is at the main villa and the crystal-clear pool looks so enticing that we all have a swim after our delicious lunch. For lunch, you make your own pizza using a thin pre-made base with a selection of toppings to choose from, grilled to perfection by chef Joao. Careful not to over-indulge or you might fall asleep.
Our table is set up on the veranda at the main villa and the cooling breeze is just wonderful. We start off with pineapple and mint soup, followed by our pizza creations and end our meal with mango sorbet for dessert. We relish the time in the pool so much that before we know it, the sun has started to set, painting the sky the most incredible colors.
Back at The Chapel, we are informed by Calistro that tonight is boma evening. Aah, dining under the stars – it never gets old. We are welcomed with song, drums and dance by members of the Santorini family. There is the most delectable spread of crayfish, calamari, fish and lamb chops with pasta salad and home-made French fries.
Taking in the privacy and luxury of The Chapel is a real treat. Being completely on our own as a family is an indulgence we don’t often experience, so entering our villa through the old wooden church doors with the domed ceiling makes us realize how fortunate we are to be in a place so beautiful. Add to that a butler that is always at hand without being intrusive and a private chef, you might want to make this your permanent residence.
What started off as an original 5-bedroom Villa ago was converted into a Luxury boutique villa collection seven years later, with the addition of The Chapel and the 3-bedroom Villa Da Praia. The owners knew it would be the ideal getaway for travelers to Africa seeking privacy, luxury and exclusivity. Welcome to Santorini, your African Greek getaway.
***Thank you to Kim Beyers for making all our arrangements and for the Santorini team for their kind hospitality.
| Photographs courtesy of Santorini, Vilanculos, Mozambique and Heléne Ramackers
– Visitors need a VISA when entering Mozambique.
– Mozambique is a malaria area, so consult your doctor about prophylactics.
– Major currencies are accepted as well as major credit cards.
– Wi-Fi is available throughout the Villa.
– Bring lots of sunscreen, hats, cool cotton clothing, a jacket in the winter months (June to August) and don’t forget your camera and memory cards – this is any photographer’s dream!
Airlink is a privately owned airline business. The Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA
Route Specific Information: Direct daily scheduled flights between Johannesburg and Vilanculos, gateway to the Bazaruto and Benguerra islands. As well as direct flights from Nelspruit KMIA to Vilanculos offering a same day bush and beach experience.
Connectivity: Through our alliance with SAA travelers connect conveniently with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and
Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of South African Airways Loyalty programme -Voyager.
Flight Bookings: Online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations on +27 11 978 1111.